I could smell his hand and some pathetic part of my body reacted like a cat with a bowl of cream. But the direness of my stuation kicked the bowl to smithereens and as I struggled, squirming and pulling against him, I realized I could never call for help. To whom? De Courcey’s men? I tried to kick backward, wanting to hurt him…
‘Stop it,’ he hissed.
‘Do you wish to reveal yourself?’ Every muscle in my body tightened with fury as he continued. ‘If I take my hand away, shall you be sensible?’
Sensible? I will kill you! I breathed hard, irregular snorts like a cornered wild mare and then closing my eyes I nodded. The pressure of his hands eased and I whirled around.
‘You betrayed me, you betrayed me!’
‘You say?’ His face glowered in the dawn shadows of the chamber, sarcasm slapping at the walls.
‘You exchanged money with Vasey. I saw you.’ Mary Mother, the anger lay coiled inside me like a snake waiting to strike. I wanted to hit, to scratch.
There beat one moment. An inexorable moment where the hand of Fate slid back and forth deciding to weight the proceedings one way or the other.
His voice ground out as if he grated it across stone. ‘You didn’t wait long enough to see me hand it back.’
Another moment and then I lifted my hands and slapped them so hard into his chest that the noise echoed around the chamber and I almost knocked him off balance. ‘What do you think I am, Gisborne? Some sort of idiot? Why else would you meet your cousin but for money? You told him I approached Moncrieff. By the Blood of Christ, you traitor! Why else do they look for me this instant?’
‘They look for you,’ he snarled,
‘as they have ever done, because they know you are in England, that you set sail from Calais, that you were dropped somewhere on the coast…’
‘With you!’ I interjected. ‘Their own private and efficient information source.’
‘In the name of God!’ he ran his fingers through his hair. ‘In the name of your mother…’
‘Holy Mary! How dare you invoke my mother…’
‘I dare woman, because if I don’t you will not listen and her last words to me will mean nothing.’
Silence, but for the hoarse breathing in the damp space. The light mellowed as the sun moved round the edge of the castle walls, sifting itself though the bars of the grille.
‘What – words?’ The words spat as I glared at him, stripping out every bit of a deceitful affection, freezing my expression to a reflection of hate and disbelief.
‘“Protect my Ysabel, Guy. Find her, keep her safe from her father’s misguided actions.”’
‘Oh,’ I whispered, walking to the grille, rubbing my hands over the damp stone of this castle that should have been an inheritance. ‘And why, Gisborne, would you pay heed to my mother’s words? You barely knew her. You were a mere new squire.’ I emphasized the word ‘squire’ as if it was as dirty as peasant’s feet, the lowest of the low.
‘We had respect for each other. She trusted me.’
‘How fortutitious.’ I never knew I could sneer.
‘By God, you bitch.
Rot here then. Try and avoid De Courcey. But as his net closes about, remember I could have helped.’ He took a step back.
‘Gisborne,’ I called after him. ‘How did you get here before me?’ The question hung in the air like the sword of Damocles.
He stood so still it frightened me, as if he was the powder keg at the end of a fuse. Then he shook his head, a marginal shake, barely there, and I could imagine his eyes slitting and if there was an intake of impatient breath, I didn’t hear it. ‘I know every inch of the demesnes. Every track, every fast and easy hidden way. I broke the horse galloping here. Even now, his legs barely hold him in a coppice. His saddlery is thrown in a bog and he sweats as if he is ill. If he is found, there are no saddlemarks amongst the froth of his exertions. I made sure.’
He had an answer for everything. As cold as a winter breeze, not a sign that he tried hard to convince me although others would say he merely told truths.
‘Alright then,’ I said. ‘What about the castle? How did you now about the grille?’
‘I told you, I know every inch of this place, the domain and the castle.’
‘And sold the plan to De Courcey for a recommendation to moneyed knighthood, no doubt.’
He stood at the door. Our whole conversation had been uttered in wrenched tones and he replied in a whisper now. ‘Gelis showed me, as your mother was too ill. Over time, I was able to ascertain that the bailiff was unaware. If your father betrayed any of the secrets of the castle to any other of his staff, then you can be sure De Courcey will know by now. Methinks however, that luck is on your side. If they knew about this, they would be here with a guard and they are not. Gelis trusted me to use them for safety should I ever need to.’
He disappeared out the door, leaving me a beaten woman and I stood there for less than a heartbeat. I ran after him. ‘Where is she?’ A whispered cry after the back that disappeared down a narrow snaking tunnel.
Guy stopped, a darker shadow against the unlit walls. I could decipher nothing in his expression as he turned back. He was alarmingly, quietly and most powerfully neutral.
Got her, he would be thinking.
And poor unfortunate me, I had no choice but to let him.
This is the last upload of Gisborne on Mesmered. I must now concentrate on finishing the story and going through the detailed technical service required to bring it successfully to print and e-book. I’m so grateful for the friendships Gisborne has engendered and if you like what you have read, you may well like the new blog piece that will start next week.
‘A Thousand Glass Flowers’ is the story of fated lovers: Lalita and Finnian. Ostensibly classified as a fantasy, it sits on the rim of magical realism and for those RA fans, Finnian is shaped from those characters created by the man himself.
From my POV as a writer, it would be interesting to hear whether you feel Finnian is a character in his own right, or just another carbon copy of Guy of Gisborne.
The book was written in rough draft two years ago and has been going through a varied editorial re-shaping. It is due to go to the publisher’s in the UK later this year… so all input is welcome!
(Images from BBC/Tiger Aspect Productions)